Data diarrhea: my epic post about reader survey results

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Here's an overview of what y'all told us you wanted to see more of on the site.
Here’s an overview of what y’all told us you wanted to see more of on the site.

I’ve written on the Offbeat Empire business blog about why I’m not doing my usual massive multi-site reader survey this year. Nevertheless, Offbeat Home & Life has undergone a lot of changes in 2013, so it felt important to do a little mini-reader survey specific to this site. Big thanks to the thousand of you who took us up on the invitation to share your feedback, and apologies again for the technical difficulties we experienced in the first few hours of the survey.

This post is going to be long, but for those of you who are into data and/or invested in the future of Offbeat Home & Life, it’s going to be fun. We’ve got stuff about Facebook, family-related content, and the kinds of posts y’all hate. Come along!

How long have you been reading Offbeat Home & Life?

question1
This surprised me. Of course the whole idea with this website has always been building a more long-term community. Since Offbeat Bride has such a transient readership, I’ve always hoped that Offbeat Home & Life readers would be the type to stick around… but I didn’t realize so many of you actually were!

Almost two thirds of you have been reading since 2011, the year we launched. I think it’s fair to generalize that the majority of you have been reading for a couple years or so. This surprises me because, with a few exceptions, I don’t feel like I know all of you very well. I can think of maybe a dozen repeat guestpost contributors, and maybe 30 frequent commenters… but that’s maybe 50 people total. We have about 200,000 monthly readers, and even if we skew the percentages, this means thousands of you have been reading for years! It makes me a little sad. Considering how long many of you have been reading, I wish I felt like I knew y’all better.

What now? I hope some of you will consider stepping out of the shadows and becoming more active via comments or guestposts or advice questions. Or heck, even patronage! Clearly, lots of y’all have settled in with us for the long haul… so let’s chat! Let me know if there’s anything we can do (BESIDES starting a forum, which we’ve decided not to do) to help y’all feel more comfortable getting involved.

Are you an Offbeat Bride “graduate,” or Offbeat Families “refugee”?

question2

question3

Of course the Offbeat Empire blogs are designed to complement each other, with Offbeat Home & Life being the place that former Offbeat Bride readers feel they can continue their time with us. But we threw a wrench in things when we ceased publication on Offbeat Families.

Neither of the numbers here surprise me: about 80% of y’all come to us from Offbeat Bride, which is the massively-trafficked flagship of the Offbeat Empire. And roughly 15% of you were Offbeat Families readers who have shuffled over here to see if we can fill the hole that Families left.

What now? We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing: steadily reminding Offbeat Brides that there’s a website for non-wedding stuff, and reminding Offbeat Families that they should read Offbeat Home & Life if they want new posts that are sometimes family-relevant. (Lots more about this later.)

Do you follow us via social media or other tools?

This was a dumb question since we have follower counts for each follow method, and the situation was made dumber by Polldaddy requiring a response for every answer which meant you had to answer yes to all of them. SURVEY FAIL. Sorry about that.

Realistically, we already know we have 8600 Facebook followers, 8100 Pinterest followers, 1900 Twitter followers, 1300 email newsletter subscribers, ~1000 RSS followers, and 480 Tumblr followers.

What now? Uh, ask fewer dumb survey questions?

Facebook follower questions: how do you feel about the quantity & type of posts you see on our Facebook page?

question5

question6

Offbeat Home & Life’s Facebook page is the biggest business mystery I have right now. Your average Offbeat Bride Facebook post is seen by about a fourth of its 31k followers. Offbeat Families Facebook posts are often seen by half its 12k followers. Offbeat Home & Life Facebook posts, however, are typically seen by less than 10% of our 8600 followers.

This means that most posts on Offbeat Home & Life’s Facebook page only reach about 500 of you, and sometimes as few as 100 of you.

We’ve tried posting different kinds of content (new posts! old posts! pictures! staff gossip! exactly the stuff you’re telling us you like!) and every once in a while a post will be seen by as many as 15% of our followers. But unless we syndicate the link to Bride’s or Families’ Facebook pages, Offbeat Home posts DO NOT get traction. I’ve managed Facebook pages for years, and I do everything the same way on Offbeat Home & Life’s page as I do on the other Empire pages, but wow. It is really the ugly duckling of the lot, and I have no idea why.

What now? If you’re part of the 11% of Facebook followers who wishes they saw more posts from us on Facebook, you need to engage with all the posts from us that you DO see. Click it, like it, comment on it, share it, whatever. If you want to see more from us (or any other page) on Facebook, you need to interact with the content as frequently as possible.

What are your favorite kinds of posts?
question7
I know there was some drama with this question on the survey, and for a few hours some of you could only select 5 favorites instead of 10. Sorry about that, but ultimately whether five or 10 doesn’t matter too much to me: I just wanted to see the big picture patterns.

Our “…& Life” categories have been around for less than a year, but they’ve quickly become favorites: Relationships, Families, Budget & Career, It Worked For Me all did well. Of course y’all like some of the more focused HOME categories too, like DIY, Food, and Organizing, too… but it’s clear that our expansion almost a year ago to include more lifestyle content has been a good one.

What now? These favorites mostly line up with the editorial strategy we’ve been aiming for, although you should know that none of the site editors are foodies or DIY queens, so if you want to see more of that, you’ll need to git submittin‘!

What are your LEAST favorite kinds of posts?

question8

We’d already gotten the feedback loud and clear via Offbeat Empire’s blog comments that y’all don’t like the “Where Are They Now?” posts. We’ve got the last one slated for this Friday, and then we can forget we ever had that idea.

Real Estate Porn shouldn’t have even been included, because we basically stopped doing those after last year’s reader survey, when you told us you hated ’em. We’ll be folding the category into a higher-level category so it won’t show up on future surveys.

Skipping ahead a bit, I was flabbergasted to see so little love for our Style & Beauty posts. These posts are consistently some of the most clicked, most commented, and most shared. I’m almost wondering if some of you were responding to the WORDS “style & beauty” … which can trigger mental images of weight loss tips and make-up etiquette instead of wool underwear, non-aluminum-based deodorants, and weirdo ambassadors.

Now, we need to talk about Sponsors & Shopping. 14% of you said you don’t like these kinds of posts, and to you I say: do you guys want Offbeat Home & Life to go the way of Offbeat Families? The Sponsors & Shopping posts are how Offbeat Home & Life is (barely) able to cover its expenses, and if you want to have a site to read… then you want us to cover our expenses.

That said, maybe y’all were using this vote to cast your weight in favor of our experiments with a more reader-supported business model? Maybe you were saying that instead of Sponsors or Shopping posts, you’d rather become a supporter?

What now? If we got to a place where we had, say, 50 monthly subscribers, 50 annual subscribers, and 2 patrons each month, I could TOTALLY get rid of those Sponsors and Shopping posts. If that’s a future you want to move towards… FUCKING AWESOME.

What topics do you wish you saw more of on Offbeat Home & Life?

question9

Let’s talk about that top search result there: Families. If you want lots and lots of family-related content, Offbeat Home & Life is probably never going to be wholly satisfying. I published Offbeat Families for four years, and it was not a success. I ceased publication of that site for a reason, and I do not intend to duplicate that failure on Offbeat Home & Life.

….BUT! I do hear y’all loud and clear, and here are some things we can all do:

  1. Lots of us said you wanted more of the awesome LGBT family content we had on Offbeat Families, and YES! That is totally the kind of parenting identity stuff we totally want to be running on Offbeat Home & Life. That said, none of us are LGBT parents — so if you are, you need to share your story with us!
  2. We’ll be syndicating a few of our very favorite posts from Offbeat Families here on Offbeat Home & Life. These will mostly be catered towards the earlier phases of family like deciding if or when to have kids, and trying to conceive.
  3. If you want a guided tour of Offbeat Families’ deep archives (2400 posts!), we totally suggest following Offbeat Families on Facebook. We share a couple links a day to all kinds of posts — birth stories, adoption stories, breastfeeding advice, childhood education issues, etc. Yes, Offbeat Families no longer publishes new content, but the Offbeat Families Facebook page is totally vibrant!

We’re getting the message that you want more personal posts from us and well… wow. We’re quite flattered, really. In general, the Offbeat Empire’s editors try to stand back from the blogs a bit — these are not our personal websites, and we’re mostly focused on our community and the community’s stories. But we hear you, and all the Empire’s editors will be sharing more personal stories here in coming weeks (including pop culture stuff). We hope you like these more personal posts as much as you think you will? Eep.

What now? I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but we’d LOVE to share more subcultural stories, LGBT and academia issues, and inspiring stories from our gracefully-aging 40+ offbeat lifestyle experts… we’re a community-driven site, so if you wish there was more of something represented, we warmly invite you to submit!

What about the OTHER OPTION suggestions?

Here's an overview of what y'all told us you wanted to see more of on the site.Well, as you could see from the tag cloud image, it’s hard to give an at-a-glance perspective on qualitative data like we get in the “OTHER” feedback field. 111 of you gave feedback and if I had to do an anecdotal break-down, I’d say it tended toward polyamory, specific requests for family-related stuff (babies! trans* parents! adoption! special needs!), and varying requests for what I’mma call “DINK” content — not literally “double income, no kids” but content related to that post-wedding/pre-kids phase of a relationship.

I also noticed a general trend of a cluster of you aching for the kind of stuff that Cat Rocketship used to do way more of back in her era as editor: homesteading, eco-conscious, cleaning product DIY, etc. I got a chuckle out of this because I remember back when Cat was editor, we got feedback that Offbeat Home & Life “felt like the Cat Rocketship show” … a show that some of you now miss! We’ll see if we can bring some of that stuff back in.

What now? Many of you revealed a lot about yourselves through your requests… you want more content that reflects your personal challenges and pains. And (this is the last time I’ll say it), we can’t share those stories unless you share them with us. Seriously. We LOVE reading your submissions and publish the vast majority of them (although of course we can’t promise to publish them all). If you get nothing else from this enormous 2000-word post, get this:

We love you. We want to get to know you. We can’t wait to share the story of YOUR Offbeat Home & Life.

Sometimes people email to ask if their guestpost idea is “offbeat enough” and our answer is always the same: if someone who reads Offbeat Home & Life (e.g. YOU) is interested in it, then it’s offbeat enough. Get submitting!

Comments on Data diarrhea: my epic post about reader survey results

  1. So, chiming in here from an almost never-commenter, but daily reader. I love being exposed to so many perspectives through the offbeat empire. In fact, I feel like it makes me better at my job, every day. I’m a psychologist, and by reading the offbeat empire, I am continually reminded not to make assumptions about people, but to ask them. I think the empire has helped me be a more open-minded person in general, in addition to helping my clinical work in really significant ways, and I’m so grateful to this site for that (I bet my clients are too).

    One of the reasons I rarely comment probably relates to my own…. “issues” for lack of a better word. I’m a serious introvert. I have several close friends, but they really don’t know each other. I’ve always had extreme insecurity trying to become part of, well, any group. There’s this weird tension between feeling like an active part of the empire, but also feeling on the “outside” somehow. So I lurk. I’d feel more at home wearing an offbeat empire t-shirt than I would commenting, and I don’t know quite how to explain that. It’s kinda scary. I mean y’all are so cool… if I comment… I risk feeling more outside than I do by just choosing to lurk. The whole being vulnerable in a community thing is hard for me. Just sayin’.

    • Active participating in online communities certainly isn’t for everyone, and it’s definitely important to take care of yourself and do what’s comfortable for you. But I’m going to share my lil’ story, since I’ve noticed a lot of “Long Time Reader, First Time Commenter” comments here. This may not be helpful for anybody, but I thought I’d put it out there in case somebody needed to hear it.

      I’m a former Empire Lurker. Since I started commenting and participating (including guest posts), my experience has been overwhelmingly positive!

      I always have intense insecurity about commenting and “joining” an online community–a fact that would probably surprise some folks around these parts! It’s just so far out of my comfort zone to actively try to be part of a group and I have a lot of anxiety about what I say.

      When I first found Offbeat Bride, I was sort of only vaguely thinking about getting married and I just didn’t feel like I had much to contribute. I noticed that there definitely seemed to be some “regulars” and the commenting policy honestly scared me a little. I was afraid I was going to hurt some feelings or have nothing of value to say–which I assumed would be annoying and unwanted.

      I was really wrong about that. At very least, just saying “This wedding is a stunner” makes the people involved feel good, and everyone here supports that. I’ve had questions answered that I never would’ve even asked anywhere else… and I’ve answered some of those sorts of questions, too. And yeah, I’ve made some friends!

      And in the interest of full-disclosure, I’ve made some comments that didn’t sit well with some people and I’ve had comments deleted. But by and large, commenters on the Empire are so respectful and I’m so aware of the moderation end that I came away from each situation a little more informed.

      And I feel like that’s why it’s been so easy for me to go from Lurker to Commenter–I know that pretty much every person sitting in the comment section wants me and everyone else to succeed and be heard! That’s pretty gosh-darn awesome.

      I do get overwhelmed sometimes with the connectedyness of it all, so when that happens… I just take a break from commenting for a while. And there’s no pressure to get back into the swing of participating (which happens a lot of forums, I’ve noticed).

      Anyway, all of this to say… I’d love to hear from you if you ever do comment, but we’re all glad you’re out there, either way. 🙂

  2. I’m going to group my few points into one long comment-diarrhea (wow, can’t believe I spelled that correctly first time!)

    – I’m an offbeat families refugee (I ‘graduated’ there from offbeat bride) and although I completely understand why OBFamilies had to stop publishing new posts, I still feel like there is a gaping hole in the internet. I have found nowhere else that reflects my experience of becoming a parent, and nowhere else that gave me the space to consider that maybe it isn’t all awesome and that you can have ‘ugh babies’ and ‘yay my child’ at the same time and that that’s ok. I haven’t found anywhere else either that really treats parents (especially mothers) as people in their own right, and not just baby machines. I’m trying to think of a guest post, but to be honest, I think you have my experiences pretty much well covered by other posters already. Thanks Ariel for posting the link to the offbeat families Facebook page. I’d tried picking random posts from the archive to satisfy my offbeat families fix, but following on Facebook is much easier. It makes me feel like the blog is still publishing – yay!

    -I think I also clicked ‘sponsored posts’ as one of my least favorites. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them – I do! I just like them less than some other posts. But I still read them and enjoy them! And I’d definitely rather read sponsored posts than see a subscription-based model.

    – Ok, I’ve diarreahed enough that I’ve forgotten my other point now. Can’t have been that important 🙂

    • “I haven’t found anywhere else either that really treats parents (especially mothers) as people in their own right, and not just baby machines.”

      As the former editor of Families, I just wanna say I totally agree with you! RIP, Families.

  3. I am one of the lurkers!…. and started reading offbeat life because I was on off beat bride. Thanks for sharing all the data from the survey it was really interesting.

    I have to admit I was turned off a bit when I started seeing all the family postings because part of what I loved about coming here is I knew I could read through some fun posts with out being reminded I don’t have kids. I wouldn’t have to see a super cute adorable picture of some kid with their family all smiling so perfectly I want to Lennie hug them. Their smiles screaming “Hey lady are you ovulating cause you should go get knocked up!”

    But once I understood the whole deal with the sites merging, I got over it. Also it was really nice being exposed to the articles with the offbeat perspectives on families. Someone mentioned one I liked a lot eariler in the comments, the one about motherhood not becoming someones entire identity.

    Also I agree with a previous commenter that the frequency of family type posts is at a good level. Above all <3 you offbeatwhatever!

  4. Hi!
    I’ve been thinking of submitting an advice question for a while, but I haven’t done it because I wasn’t sure how it would work. Will you tell me soon-ish if you’re gotten it and plan to publish it? And will you tell me in advance when you’ll publish it or will it just appear one day in 6 months or something and if I don’t check the site that day I will miss it? (Not trying to sound critical all all, I’m just genuinely wondering how you organize these things!) Thanks!

      • I’m assuming you don’t run every advice post submitted, right? So if I send an advice request in, will I know in advance if you’ve decided to publish it? Or will I not know until a Sunday, potentially several months later?

        • Correct: we can’t run every question we get, and we don’t email to reject questions we don’t publish. For advice questions we already have answers to, we email back immediately with a links to relevant posts and existing discussions.

          • I must say, I’ve been so pleased to receive speedy and thorough responses to advice questions. I had one questions published and received some fan-fucking-tastic responses from other readers and had another question responded to with a ton of useful links. Hooray!

  5. Maybe consider taking Sponsor posts off the list of categories that are rated in the survey? You need them to survive, so they’re gonna stay on anyway–but obviously, nobody likes feeling like something’s being sold to them, so no one is gonna rate Sponsor posts as #1. I know I certainly didn’t put them at the top of my list, even though I KNOW they’re required and I don’t mind seeing them.

    So yeah. Maybe a separate question, something like ‘how could we improve sponsor posts? [blank entry field OR choice of answers]’? Sorry if I come off a little blunt, I’m not very good at this.

    I’ve been reading Offbeatbride since I was 19-20, and I’m 25 now. I hopped on OBH as soon as it came into existence, and was briefly hooked on OBF. I never comment mainly because I’m not anywhere NEAR the ‘life stage’ that (I think?) the average OB member is: I live with my parents so most house stuff is out of the question, I’m still (STILL!!) in school so my budget is nonexistent, and I’m not engaged or even in a relationship! I read OB blogs because I find them inspiring, in a ‘someday….in the future…!!’ kind of way, or just to look at cool stories from awesome people. I don’t really have anything to contribute, so I don’t. I think I commented once on a ‘what board games are good for sore losers?’ post, and immediately regretted it when I got comment mail in my inbox for like, two weeks after. :|b It’s not all bad, though–I make a point NEVER to read the comments section on any site. Except OB. You guys are like Tumblr for me, except for real-world non-fandom stuff.

    Y’all rock. ♥

    /waves from the peanut gallery!!

    • Hey, so I’m 25, live at my parents’ home, am unemployed and have less than no budget. I’ve also submitted numerous guest posts!! So I think that you fit right in, and I’m sure you have cool stuff to contribute, even if it’s just a comment 😀

    • I like your suggestions about the sponsored posts. Thanks for that!

      I think I commented once on a ‘what board games are good for sore losers?’ post, and immediately regretted it when I got comment mail in my inbox for like, two weeks after.

      You know there’s an unsubscribe link in the footer of every comment notification email, right? RIGHT!? I hate to think of you not commenting because you feel spammed. 🙁

  6. What I really liked about “Where are they now” is reading about divorce, and splitting up. I like hearing about how people’s lives change. Can we get more of that content?

  7. I don’t interact with the site as I’ve greatly reduced the amount of time I spend online.

    I’m one of those who misses Cat’s voice. You’ve brought up that ‘Cat Rocket ship show’ comment before and I’ve always thought it was an asshole remark. The challenges of finding/developing content in the early phases of a site can me monumental and well, when you’re living a life that is inspiring then why the fuck not share it?

    I liked the idea of the ‘Where Are They Now’ posts, and enjoyed reading about people from my OBT days. I’m very surprised they weren’t well received.

    • Yeah, the “Cat Rocketship show” goes down in history as one of the jerkier pieces of reader survey feedback EVER. I mean, we got much meaner… but that one somehow just felt particularly cruel. Of course a site is going to reflect its editor(s) and her/their interests. That said, there was a kernel of truth in the feedback, which was that Cat compensated for a lack of reader submissions by just writing every single post herself — which was a LOT of work. Too much work, really. Now I try to make sure that editors balance their own writing with community submissions, so that the site reflects both OUR interests, AND the community’s.

    • Hi! I just wanted to put in my 2 cents about the “Where are they now” posts…I am one of the people who didn’t like them, but for me it was because I DIDN’T come here from OBB. So, I had no idea who any of those people were and no real desire to read about their weddings to find out who they were. I might have clicked and skimmed if there was something interesting to me in the title, but that was about it. I can see, however, that it might be interesting to read about if you’d already read about the couple on OBB. 🙂

  8. Hah, I actually really enjoy reading these survey breakdowns. 🙂

    And I have a couple submissions in the works!

  9. I’m not really surprised by the outcome. I’m really interested in how the results will effect the blog in the future :)…

    I just made a submission last week. I’m really excited now :). I’ll try to make some more because I looooove OBH :).

  10. I love reading about the survey, its so interesting and i love stuff about people opinions and behaviour, so nosey!

    Being from England, i like the posts about people in places other than the U.S.
    On the same topic, i have figured out monthly subsciption is actually very cheap so i will set it up next month 🙂

    I may have to submit a post too, i have considered several, some relationsship/friends type stuff, could do 100,000 craft ones, but also many food ones. I will record my making of this Christmas vegan nut loaf as its AMAZING (and i totes made up the recipe myself) and submit it for next year.

    Does it matter how ‘finished’ a submitted post is? Im pretty confident im a reasonable writer, but wouldnt want to be making loads of work for you guys if its actually utter crap!

    Aside from all that, big peace and love to the empire, happy with all the content as its broadening my horizons if nothing else 🙂

    • Does it matter how ‘finished’ a submitted post is? Im pretty confident im a reasonable writer, but wouldnt want to be making loads of work for you guys if its actually utter crap!

      This is a tough question to know how to answer, because it’s so relative. As we say on the submission page: “You don’t need to be a professional writer, but your post should have a thoughtful, specific focus and narrative structure. Be conscientious about capitalization, proofreading, spelling, etc.”

      In other words, it needs to be coherent and readable, and you should run spellcheck — but our expectations are pretty realistic when it comes to community writing, and we do edit posts. Your best way to get a feel is to look at the posts we run on the site, and ask yourself “Could I write that?” If yes, then yes!

      • When you make a submission is what you submit the end of it, or is there any dialog on the piece and opportunity for additional editing or changes?

        • There IS a dialog, but in the interest of time, we don’t do rounds of revisions. Every once and a while we’ll be like, “Can you clarify this part?” but for the most part, if you’ve been generous enough to submit, we don’t want to then reward you by taking up your time with revisions and changes.

  11. So this post made me realise WHY I don’t see OBH on my feed… It’s not that I don’t interact with the content, it’s that I never “liked” the page! DOH! Hopefully I’ll miss things less now. I really dislike facebook, but I do like being able to condense my “catching up” into one place: friends, HuffPo, Think Progress, OBB, and, finally, OBH.

  12. Why hello strangers! Okay, so, for me the reason for lack of commentage is simply that OBH and OBE are more likely to be my once-every-couple-of-weeks reading binge, with the side effect of by the time I read the thing I might otherwise comment on, it’s either two weeks old, or has 700 million comments saying vaguely what i intended to say, or both.
    so that’s why I’ve been pretty absent on the commenting for the last couple of years… but active on the THIS!-ing! 😀

    • I am similar. I don’t tend to read things right when they’re posted and when something already has a ton of comments on it, I’m much less likely to contribute.

      • This is me too. Maybe a topic on FB will catch my eye, then once a week I will come over here and read all the posts for the last week or so if they interest me. And if there are too many comments I just skip it. No sense repeating what everyone has already said.

    • Me too. I comment anyway, though, because I figure if I’m coming late to the party, maybe somebody else will be even later than me. 😉 The internet lives foreverrrrr…

  13. I totally have submission ideas! My husband and I just downsized to a studio and I want to write about that, and give a tour of our tiny place. I have questions/musings about not being ready for kids when your partner is, about life as a substitute teacher, about moving away from your home town for the first time, about navigating poly-life when you’re more into it then your partner. I just can’t seem to find the g*damn time write any of it out. Soon! I hope you’ll see something from me soon!

  14. Long time reader, occasional commenter, and have submitted two stories that you published. THANKS. I am one that is saddened by the leaving of Where are they now. I never thought of them as Offbeat Bride left overs. I didn’t know half of them. I focused on the relationship aspect after the wedding. So I am so surprised that so many people skipped over them just because they came from OBB. Fascinating. I also find it interesting that so many readers equate FAMILIES to Husband, wife, baby. Family is so much more than that! I am single handedly hitting several of your categories. LOL. Over 40, child free, Infertility struggles, married, divorced, remarried, and now I am a step parent. That’s fun. LOL. And I am still trying to figure out who or what I want to be when I grow up. That;s why I visit Offbeat. It makes me feel a bit more normal. (I LOVE all the new relationship subjects that would otherwise be taboo..Poly, Gay and Lesbian, etc…Would love to see some “Swinger” posts and other alternative lifestyle posts!)

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